Ignatius William Albert Nichols
Auxilary Bishop of Washington

First convert Orthodox Bishop in North America

If you are not familiar with his name itís probably because his time as an Orthodox bishop lasted just about eight months. It's probably also because the vast majority of information about him is regarding his career as an independent (episcopus vagans) and all the claims of many independent old catholics that they are Orthodox with lines that thrace to the Moscow Patriarchate and Abp. Aftimios through Ignatius.

William Albert Nichols [b. Cambridge, Mass., Dec. 4, 1877] started out his ordained ministry as an Episcopal deacon in Arkansas in 1908 having received theological education at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He was ordained as an Episcopal priest two years later in Colorado and also trained and worked as a chaplain and journalist, eventually becoming religion editor for the New York Sun and the Brooklyn Standard Union (1926-28) and later The New York World-Telegram (1929-43). He served as an Episcopal parish priest in Brooklyn for two years (1927-29).

Things were going fairly "normally" up until he decided to leave the Episcopal priesthood and was in 1929 consecrated as a bishop of the so-called "American Catholic Church" by Bp. Arthur Edward Leighton. For some unknown reason in 1930 he was ordained again to the priesthood and consecrated a second time to the episcopacy of the "Apostolic Christian Church." Sometime between 1930 and 1932, he became interested in Orthodoxy.

In 1932 he became part of the American Orthodox Catholic Church (THEOCACNA) under Abp. Aftimios Ofiesh, who founded "The Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil" in 1931. Ignatius was appointed to head the Society of Clerks Secular of St Basil by Abp. Ofiesh.

The AOCC was at that time of questionable canonical status, though it had been founded in 1927 with the blessing of the Russian Metropolia in America (itself of questionable canonical status since 1924, when it declared itself independent of its mother church due to the communist attempt to control the Church and clergy in Russia). By 1932, though, Aftimios had made multiple enemies within the ecclesiastical world, as well as suffering the withdrawal of the support of the Metropolia due to threats by the Ecumenical Patriarch. Despite its isolation, it seems that communion was not broken between the AOCC and other jurisdictions (though Platon in 1930 did say that Aftimios was no longer a Metropolia bishop but a bishop in another canonical jurisdiction), and clergy were readily received from it (typically back into the Metropolia).

Archbishop Aftimios's general vision was modeled on that of St. Tikhon, who attempted to form a multi-ethnic jurisdiction under the Russian archdiocese, with bishops for each ethnic group. Aftimios likewise appointed bishops for the Syrians (Sophronios Beshara and Emmanuel Abo-Hatab, St. Raphael's former archdeacon) and Ukrainians (Joseph Zuk). He also attempted to appoint a bishop for the Russians, one Fr. Leonid Turkevich (whose consecration as such had been specifically blessed by the Metropolia at the founding of the AOCC).

The last bishop whom Aftimios consecrated was William Albert Nichols, who took the name Ignatius. The consecration took place on September 27, 1932, and Ignatius was appointed as Archbishop of Washington and auxiliary to Aftimios, specially charged with evangelizing "Americans" in English. Ignatius's work with the Western Rite via the Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil continued with him as its bishop. Thus, Ignatius is also history's first modern Orthodox bishop solely dedicated to the Western Rite.

In April 1933, Aftimios married in a civil ceremony a Syrian girl from Wilkes-Barre some 30 years his junior. Some claim a synod was held by Ignatius who was an Auxilary bishop with Joseph Zuk. That is doubtful. They along with Sophronius did congratulate Aftimios on his marriage. Ignatius was also said to write the newlyweds and state; "Orthodoxy will begin new life in America. God bless you both."

Clearly inspired by his former primate' in July, Ignatius himself married a woman named Emily Chasman. In November, Sophronios declared Ignatius deposed from the episcopacy. Totally isolated from Orthodoxy, Ignatius continued his work with an independent group using the name "The Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil", not associated with THEOCACNA.

He functioned as an independent bishop from 1934 claming to be Archbishop of the Holy Orthodox Church in America. an uncanonical independent group until 1942. In 1942 he left orthodoxy and became a Pastor of a Community Church in Vermont and in 1943 he signed a contract as Pastor of the Church where he served until the time of his death in 1947.

Ignatius even briefly went into communion with John Kedrovsky and his son Nicholas of the Soviet "Living Church". During this time, he often with other episcopi vagantes (independents) consecrated six different men to the episcopacy. One of these men was Alexander Turner, who (according to some ethnic clergy) in 1936 took over headship of the Clerks Secular. From 1959-61, Turner, whose lines of succession through Ignatius are in question as doubtful due to Ignatius having left the Canonically established church in favor of being independent, succeeded in bringing many of his flock into the Antiochian Archdiocese, thus founding the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate.

Through Ignatius, there are now dozens (perhaps more) of lines of episcopi vagantes who erroneously trace themselves back to Aftimios.

The ethnic jurisdiction do not want the American Church in their homelands but feel they can invade our canonical jurisdiction, attack the American Church and clergy, act contrary to the canons, even act in a manner that the attack Abp. Aftimios for (i.e. marriage contrary to the canons after ordination), demand they have authority over the American Church which they do not, even claim to be the American Church on occasion. They attack the memory of Abp. Aftimios in a manner contrary to the canons showing they are unchristian. By these many actions since 1929 they have created a schism in american orthodoxy!